Adam Smith, the liberal

Published by Routledge

Left and right quarrel about how to use state power expansively, for redistribution or for empire. The liberals from Locke to Hayek want to restrain it, and, in terms of Niall Ferguson’s latest book, let the market square undermine the top-down tower. After 1848 economics ceased being mainly a criticism of illiberalism, and increasingly adopted the illiberal premise of social engineering, an engine run by philosopher kings and, lately, queens, especially after 1948. The mischief in teaching the science of scarcity, so useful and sensible for the short to medium run, came out of the rhetoric of “perfect competition.” In short, in the long run The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations has little to do with the vaunted science of scarcity, reaching its peak in the Samuelsonian economics of Max U taught now in most universities.

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